tsp-LOST.. Where Are We Now?

image: FakeMARTAWell, that was fun.  I'm glad it's over.  My $99.00 grocery bill won't become $99.99.  That's what I was really worried about.  I hope I never have to hear the horrid TSPLOST acronym again.  You'll hear a lot of post-mortems over the coming weeks and this one is in no way comprehensive but it's representaive of where I stand.

TSPLOSTs got thumped around the state and that should tell you something.  The fact is that the legislation sucked.  It was drafted under a gold dome that didn't want anything to do with a functional transportation bill.  It took a last minute deal in 2010 just to hammer something through and finally break the multi-year deadlock.  

They effectively punted the responsibility to the citizens by telling us that if we want infrastructure improvements, we will have to design a project list ourselves and then vote to pay for it ourselves.  Oh yeah.. if you don't vote for it, your state local match for road projects will be cut from 90% to 70%.

Apparently, we don't like having to compromise with our neighbors and we really don't like being told that we will have to pay for it and be penalized if we don't.  TIA was riddled with flaws ranging from how the project selection would take place to how it hamstrung MARTA as the ONLY transit system in the state that was not allowed to directly benefit from the tax revenues.  It did not create a region-wide transportation system and it left too many vagaries as to how the funds would be managed, spent and accounted for although there were provisions that feigned oversight.  Unfortunately, the devil was in the details and the devil was teased out over time.

So, we're back to the drawing board.  What's next?  That would be the enigma that is "Plan B." I'm sure you will see a dozen new Plan B's over the next month or so and each one of them will push more roads growing ever wider. EXACTLY WHAT WE DON'T NEED.  In fact, the governor already has one... and it's said to be pretty top-down just like those wiley, patriotic liberty loving Tea Partiers like it.

Why did it fail?

Regardless of what the naysayers say, this didn't fail because of the project list.  It didn't fail because there was 52% transit versus 48% roads.  It failed because of the structure of the legislation and VERY poor messaging by its supporters.  It failed because of a massive conservative led and stoked distrust (in some cases well founded) in the government which is ironically overwhelmingly conservative run at the moment.  Let's not forget that the legislation (intentionally?) set the vote for what would be a Republican dominated state primary with a historically low turnout of just the type of voter who would vote for a tax increase.

Many of those who voted no had no idea what was on the project list.  They were ideologically against tax increases.  Additionally, there was a pervasive misunderstanding that this was going to be an $8.5 billion bailout of MARTA which would ultimately result in trains, crime and density in the suburbs.  

You can't combat that level of ideology and misunderstanding with an alternative ideology. Unfortunately, that is exactly what the UntieAtlanta campaign tried to do.  It failed miserably. The ad campaign was opaque at best and never resonated with any faction of the electorate.  It relied on people doing their own research.  You have to be OUT OF YOUR MIND to think that the average voter who already feels they are over-taxed is going to check out a list of 157 projects and then sift through local news or municipal websites to find their local share projects.  Most people didn't even know there was a 15% local share.  The marketing was a collosal waste.  

Oh yeah... let's not forget the hot lane and GA400 disasters that were so well timed ahead of this vote as well as the crazy Agenda 21 nuts that started coming out from the fringes this year.  The horrid acronym that became attached to the Transportation Investment Act didn't help either.  TSPLOST just sounds like a monster waiting to get voted down.

This was a perfect storm that swamped the TSPLOST.

Last but not least, I can't really blame the asshole who stole the one Vote Yes sign that I put up the day after I put it up but that was just wrong.  I'd like to assume it's the same asshole who stole the lone Vote NO sign in the neighborhood the day after I sent this email to my neighborhood about it. But it was probably dueling sign bandits. Interestingly, only TSPLOST signs seemed to be disappearing though as the other signs were still there. Odd.. Do signs really even influence votes anyway? 

If I thought it was bad legilsation from the get-go, then why did I support it?  

I play with the cards I'm dealt.  All in all, the project list was solid and very compromising for the region.  I prefer to see action rather than inaction.  An imperfect plan that ultimately gets the job done is better than no plan at all.  It's also better, in my opinion, to start now with a plan that works than wait years into the future to see if a perfect plan comes along.

Any real visionary action in our region has now been pushed 4 years down the road.  That's FOUR YEARS if we are lucky.  That's the same amount of time it takes to get a college education.  That's A LONG time.  I'd rather get to work than sit and wait for politicians to come up with something else that may or may not work.  Maybe I'm just too impatient.  

What's Next?

I will continue to advocate for places that enable people to drive less and enjoy life more.  The new Roswell Gateway Master Plan is just that and we will continue to work to bring awareness of its benefits.  Unfortunately, the $20.4M that would have funded the critical Hwy 9 redesign that would have helped bring the master plan to fruition just got tspLOST.

Here's what we can expect to see around the region in exchange for that penny.  

  • Lots of one sided Plan B's
  • Lots of fragmented local projects that don't help the 65% of us that commute between more than one county
  • Lots of people saying this is a mandate that we ONLY want road expansion in the Atlanta region
  • More toll road proposals
  • More toll road proposals... so get your PeachPasses
  • Increased Local Share Responsibility on Road Projects (10% becomes 30%)
  • No Transit Expansion up 400 or into Cobb or Gwinnett or out I20 or into Clayton
  • MARTA Cuts
  • GRTA Cuts
  • Fewer sidewalk projects
  • Fewer bike lane projects
  • Increasing commute times
  • Increasing air pollution
  • The list goes on.....

I don't know if penny pinching feels so good when I see that list but at least my $99.00 grocery bill is still $99.99.